Thiruvananthapuram: The shadow-boxing between Kerala government and the Centre entered an ominous new phase, with the crime branch of the state police filing a criminal case against Enforcement Directorate allegedly for pressurising gold smuggling kingpin Swapna Suresh to name chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan in connection with the gold, dollar smuggling rackets.
The crime branch FIR is based on the statements by two women police officials of Swapna Suresh’s security team to the effect that they had overheard ED officials coercing the gold smuggling accused to incriminate Pinarayi Vijayan.
The claim by the policewomen was followed recently by a statement by Sandeep Nair, Swapna Suresh’s co-accused, that he was also pressurised by the ED officials to name the chief minister in connection with the scams.
Enforcement Directorate believes that both the statement by the policewomen as well as the claim by Sandeep are part of a conspiracy hatched by the state police to discredit the central agency and help the ruling party make political capital in the elections.
The Customs Department had filed an affidavit in the high court about the alleged direct involvement of the chief minister, assembly speaker and a few ministers in the dollar smuggling scam.
The timing of the state, weeks ahead of a crucial assembly election, had caused much embarrassment to the ruling party, which alleged that the Customs move was to provide BJP its main campaign theme for the election.
The fight between Enforcement Directorate and the state police was first triggered by a voice clip purportedly by Swapna Suresh, claiming that she had been pressurised to implicate the chief minister in the clandestine deals. Swapna Suresh, however, disowned the voice clip, which later turned out to be a fabrication.
The ED had, in turn, made a formal demand to the Jail DG to probe the origin of the alleged fake voice clip. In a tit for tat move, the Jail DG issued an order, requiring ED officials visiting the jail to question Swapna Suresh to be accompanied by officials of the state police.
ED, which sees a clear pattern in the developments, has apparently decided to counter the crime branch through legal channels.
Opposition UDF and BJP see the move by state police as a conspiracy to neutralise the political fallout of alleged involvement by the chief ministers and other key functionaries of the government in the clandestine operations, which according to them were based out of the chief minister’s office.
The central agencies had questioned key officials of the CM office, with the chief minister’s former principal secretary M Sivasankar, already having been named in multiple cases relating to gold and dollar smuggling.